Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Bellingham Business Journal

Business Births

Photo by Isaac Bonnell

Corey Warren (left), Dylan Warnberg and Yale Wolf chill at the new downtown ski and snowboard shop, Innate Snow & Skate. Warnberg and Wolf are seen here sitting on one of the old chairs from Chair One at Mt. Baker Ski Area. Warren won the chair last year as part of a writing contest for the ski area.

Last April, on the final day of skiing at the Mount Baker Ski Area, Corey Warren came home with a chair from the aging Chair 1 lift.

The ski area auctioned off all but 10 of the two-person chairs and held a contest for the remaining relics. Warren’s love letter to Mt. Baker won him a chance to pick through all the chairs to find one he liked.

“They had a whole yard of them and I picked one with the number ‘8,’” he said.

At the time, he didn’t think that his prize would one day be on display at a gear shop he ran with his ski buddy Dylan Warnberg.

But Innate Snow & Skate is more than just a gear shop — it’s part music venue, part art gallery, and part screen printing shop as well.

“Being a gear shop is kind of a disguise. It’s a way to bring people together in one space,” said Warren, who is a co-creator of the shop. “We wanted to start a cooperative art gallery at first. Then we realized it would be difficult to run that kind of business.”

With a love of art, music and snow, Warnberg and a crew of fellow enthusiasts have transformed the former Edge skate shop into a hub of cultural activity. A giant mural, courtesy of artist Yale Wolf, displays local icons such as Mt. Baker and the Herald building — except in this case the red neon sign defines this place as “Heaven.”

The shop is on the monthly Downtown Art Walk and recently showcased the work of local photographer Joe Briggs. One of his photos of Seattle rappers Common Market performing at the store’s grand opening is proudly displayed above the front counter.

Music is also a constant. Already the small stage at the front of the store has hosted local bands Acorn Project and Sweet Beets. During normal business hours, a set of congas sits patiently on stage waiting for anyone to play them. Afternoon jam sessions are common and encouraged, Warnberg said.

In terms of snow gear, the shop offers high-end apparel and equipment designed to handle the wet and windy Northwest weather. The shop offers equal choices for skiers and snowboarders and doesn’t perpetuate the old “us versus them” attitude, Warren said.

“We’re all going to the same spot and we’re all craving the same runs,” Warren said.

After all, searching for the best snow is innate among all skiers and snowboarders.

— Isaac Bonnell

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